I was going to just email this to Tynan but noticed Tynan.com is running on SETT now so figured, what the hell, I'll share it with everyone.
The reason I came to the site was to find the quote from his post on meditation. It's the first sentence of the post. "The thing that really scares me is spontaneous personal expression."
That's certainly the case for me, too, and of all my fears, pushing on that one has been the most rewarding thing I've ever done. Eight years of western therapy and western Buddhist meditation have done a lot for that particular fear but it's still the strongest. I'm afraid of heights and falling and injury and public speaking all sorts of other stuff but working with those fears is nothing compared to the fear of expressing myself, especially in ways that I don't already identify as "things I'm good at" or "things I'm proud of."
I went to the Game Developer's Conference last week, but only managed to attend two talks other than my own (because I was still preparing for my own) but one of them was by John Sharp, an art historian, academic, and game designer who teaches at Georgia Institute of Technology. His was a talk on Abstraction in art and game design. He talked about a lot of stuff: painting, photorealism, photography, Jackson Pollock, Islamic religious art, dance, and more I'm forgetting, but one thing that struck me was the trailer clips he used from Wim Wenders' "Pina", a documentary film about Pina Bausch, a choreographer I'd never heard of, but Wikipedia told me was one of the foremost influences in modern dance over the last 30 years.
Then I got back to Seattle and completely coincidentally a friend had posted on Facebook about it playing at a theater here, and about wanting to see it. I bought tickets and saw it tonight.
First, it's the first and only 3D movie I've seen where the 3D was not just a dumb gimmick. It was integral: it felt like you were on stage watching all the dance. Second, the dance was all incredible. And third, and most important, it did an incredibly job of showing how modern dance is a practice of - and performance about - overcoming that deepest fear of personal self-expression. Bausch died days before the film began shooting, so it became a tribute to her, but has no interviews with her directly. Instead, her dancers talk about how she was constantly challenging their fear, pushing them out of their comfort zones, driving them to explore the deep yearning that motivates them, and inviting them to scare themselves and others with the intensity and intimacy of their work.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough. Like I said, I was just going to tell Ty he should try to find a theater showing it because I think he'd love it, but I'd say the same for any reader of this blog. If Tynan's words and attitude resonate with you, I bet Pina will too. It's a real masterpiece.
If any of you have already seen it - or go see it after reading this - I'd love to use this as a forum to talk about it. I'm going to have to watch it again, I think, to absorb it a bit more.
Nice... I'll go see it ASAP.
Not coincidentally, dancing is one of the things I'm most afraid of doing (freestyle rap is probably the next biggest one). I'm decent at both, but the emotional transparency is so overwhelming that I haven't done either activity in public more than half a dozen times.
Thanks for the great post! This is the kind of thing I made SETT for.
Oh man, I'd love to learn popping or locking. I took breakdancing classes for a while up here but it became so clear it would take so much work
to get to where I'd be able to do it at all at a club that eventually I switched to just adult gymnastics classes and finally let it lapse altogether. If I were to study dance again it would definitely be a style like locking or even just ballet, something where I could make reasonable progress quickly. All the toprock we learned was really basic and they didn't talk much about precise body control.
Watching "Pina", just the stunning body control all the dancers have is exciting to watch. It's like hyperreal the way they move. The scene where they're dancing Cafe Muller and Pina herself is dancing, watching the way she moves is incredible. It's nothing acrobatic, just simple movements, but the precision and fluidity she has, I was riveted.
Do you live in SF? If so, I'm totally down for having you hang out with Tynan and me whenever we go dancing. Like I told Tynan, contact me at johanlikestotravel at gmail if you want my phone number, so I don't have to post it online where anyone could see.
Breakdancing is a lot of work and does require a lot of strength; I don't do it myself. It's not my favorite kind of dance, and in fact I find it kind of annoying because to me it all tends to blend together rather quickly, and people who aren't into dance usually find it more impressive than the stuff that I think is really cool. Put a mediocre breakdancer next to an amazing popper and many people will be more impressed by the b-boy.
Popping is my favorite style, and one that I'm just getting into relatively recently. There's one secret to getting it to work, and once you know that it's just practice: hold all the muscles in a limb tense so the limb is perfectly still, then release one muscle so that the counterforce from the opposing muscle makes the limb snap forward, then start the tension again to catch the movement and stop the motion. So for instance, hold your bicep and tricep flexed, then release the tricep for a fraction of a second so the bicep pulls your arm more closed, then the tricep catches it so it only moves a short distance. This is as opposed to having all the arm muscles relaxed and quickly jerking the bicep, which results in a much less precise, sloppier looking movement. I'm not sure how much sense that made in text, but in person it's fairly easy to get an idea of, if a bit difficult to implement well.
Liquid is what I have been doing the most of, because it's what my body naturally intuits as being cool and fun, and therefore the easiest for me to do. Most of the improv games I would tell you about aren't specific to a particular style so much as they are a way to build bodily awareness. In dance much like in fashion, anything where you are aware of what you're doing, in control of it, and doing it on purpose, is probably going to end up looking cool. Specific moves are only really necessary if you're going for a very strictly stylized dance form, like tango or ballet. (note: I know little about tango and only a bit about ballet, so this could be a nonsensical comparison)
I live in Seattle or I'd definitely come out and dance. Neat way of describing popping - that makes perfect sense to me, though sitting here trying it, I don't have the control to release one side of the muscles like that, it's not a familiar action.
It's funny about breaking - before I started practicing it, I thought it was the most amazing looking thing. Once I became familiar with all the moves (not like I could DO them, but I knew what to look for) I started feeling more like you about it. I will say that some of the stuff in Planet B-Boy was pretty phenomenal and I went to a World of Dance competition here outside Seattle once and saw some insane dancers (one guy who was from one of the teams in Planet B-Boy, in fact) and they have amazing skill, timing moves and freezes to the beats in ways that just make everyone go nuts. It's pretty elating to watch.
That said, at this point I think if I could pick any form of dance to be super good at, it'd be to be able to do what this dude does:
His body control is incredible, but more to the point that matches pretty well what I feel like doing when I listen to music - that maintenance and controlled release of tension, sometimes a slow trickle and sometimes a big explosion, as an expression of the music.
If you guys make the dance nights a regular thing I'll join in when I visit. :)
I've seen that video! I agree that guy is excellent, I dig it. Watching videos on the internet is a really good way to learn to dance, actually, because you can watch somebody repeatedly and really figure out what they're doing. I was inspired to start dancing about a year and a half ago by watching The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers: http://thelxd.com/episodes/cant-dance-2/
All you need to know is that the guy in the hat is the good guy, trying to rescue the lady in white from everybody else you see. Just watch it; seriously, words will do it no justice.
I started watching that show over and over, imitating specific moves but more just absorbing the style and crafting a sort of generative mythos of muscle memory, and then using that to improvise. Then just do that in every spare moment and you would be amazed at the progress that's possible in just a few months. It makes me wonder how many other fields would fit that description.
This movie looks amazing, thanks for sharing it.
Tynan, if you're going to be back in San Francisco any time in the next few weeks, I would love to go dancing with you, maybe teach you something, if you're interested-I dance competitively and have choreographed for other people in competitions before. I do liquid&digits and popping but can teach you some improv stuff that is pretty awesome both for practicing and improving your own skills, and for getting ladies to dance well with you, if you're into that sort of thing.
Yo... I'm back in SF and would love to learn some dancing stuff.
Some guys I don't know yet and I are going to Qbar in the Castro on monday at 6pm, and then dancing next door afterwords. Not the best place for a straight dude to go sarging (are you straight? I know you're into girls because PUA, but...) but it would be a cool cultural experience if you haven't done it before, and it should be fun either way. If that's not your cuppa then we can definitely arrange something else for some other time. Believe me, going out dancing twice in a week would not be an imposition.
I'll be doing daytime pickup on Monday, so my night is free. That could work. Am I going to have to worry about dudes trying to grind up against me and stuff? Haven't ever danced at a gay club before...
I have to admit that I'm not sure: I haven't thought of being hit on as something to worry about before. What Brian said sounds about right to me. Just like in any social interaction, if somebody is being obnoxious, you can brush them off.
Generally the way it works is, if you're dancing at a gay club, guys will come up near you and kind of dance facing you, do everything short of actually
grinding on you, and if you respond in kind then yeah, grinding happens.
If the club is just completely packed like a sardine can then basically you are constantly grinding with everyone around you but that's because it'll literally get as full as a Tokyo subway car at rush hour and there's no way around that. But that's a bad place to learn to dance anyway since you have no space.
Also, while we have a reputation for being easy, we are not at all indiscriminate, so only really hot (and likely shirtless) guys get ground up on constantly. If that happens, take it as a massive compliment - and also a great pickup exercise because it'll help you empathize with hot girls, because that happens to them all the time!
Also probably even if you're super hot that still wouldn't happen unless you take your shirt off, so if it does, put your shirt back on.
Sweet! I'm trying to figure out when would be good to go do this. It's a bit late, though perhaps not impossible, to do so tonight. Tomorrow evening I'm going to a showing of Coffy/live performance with Pam Grier, the first lady of blaxploitation, though I'll be free during the day. Dancing during the week is a lot more dead I'm guessing, but honestly I don't have a good feel for the scene here in SF. It's weird, I've lived here a few months, but almost all the dancing I've done has either been at events or people's houses or rooftops of abandoned buildings or what have you, very little at actual clubs. Do you have anywhere you'd like to check out, or already know is good? I am friends with friends with the guy who owns DNA Lounge, so that's the only club I have extensive experience going to, and honestly it's not got that great of a dance scene at it. If you don't have any ideas I'll suggest Cat Club in SOMA, I think I've spent a drunken evening or two there and I've heard good things about it.
I once went to a B.B. King concert, not because I'd ever owned a single song of his or had any familiarity with his music or his genre, but because I knew he was the best at what he did. In that same vein, I've always wanted to experience Burning Man, not because I care about hippies, techno music, drugs, or art, but because it's the biggest and best event of its kind in the world.
For years I intended to go to Burning Man, but the problem is that Burning Man requires a huge degree of preparation. As I found out firsthand, it's located in one of the least hospitable areas of the United States, which means that you need more stuff than you're used to needing (goggles, water, etc.), and you must provide it all yourself. So each year passed by with my intentions dissolving into the reality of a fast approaching deadline and not having prepared at all. But this year was different. A friend of mine took the initiative to rent a huge RV, recruit a Burning Man veteran to come with us, and generally organize the trip.
"Well," I thought, "it's never going to be easier than this. I may as well go."
The thing that really scares me is spontaneous personal expression. For example, I can actually freestyle pretty well, but I've only done it for an audience a handful of times. Doing it for one person is even scarier. Rapping someone else's lyrics for any audience doesn't raise my pulse at all, but having people hear what I come up with in the moment is oddly terrifying.
Last night was my friend Luke's birthday party. Before the complete production, which is like the parties I've seen in movies, but better, he hosted a small dinner and meditation session for half a dozen of us. I went because I've met awesome new friends every time I've gone to one of his dinner parties, and despite hearing about how much it's improved everyone's lives, I've just never really understood meditation.
We all sat on cushions on the top floor of his house. We would be doing pair meditation, Luke explained. We were to sit and ping-pong back and forth offering one word descriptions of what's going on in our bodies and minds. He and his partner went back and forth to demonstrate: